‘The best performance of the season’ was how Clontarf director of rugby Bernard Jackman described his side’s promotion-clinching win over Lansdowne in the Ulster Bank League.
With the Aviva Stadium success guaranteeing Clontarf’s place in next season’s ten-team Division 1A, the north Dubliners will now look to copperfasten top spot in Division 1B and win a place in the top flight semi-finals.
“I think that was our best performance of the season, because I feel Lansdowne are the best team we have played so far,” admitted Clontarf boss Bernard Jackman, in the aftermath of the 23-16 win.
“It had to be (our best performance) to win it. Lansdowne are on form and they seem to be racking up huge scores on their home pitch.
“We went for four lineout drives in-a-row and they defended our maul better than any team have.”
His opposite number, Lansdowne’s Willie Clancy, was full of praise for his side and the effort they put in.
“We started well but it was always going to be a difficult game playing the league leaders. They probably had enough possession to win two games,” he told IrishRugby.ie.
“Our defence was very good, our discipline was very good, we had a couple of chances at the end and we could have sneaked it.
“We had our opportunities but we didn’t take them at the end and to be very fair, I think Clontarf were the better team on the day.”
Injuries as well as provincial and international commitments hampered Lansdowne’s preparations for this Dublin derby, but Clancy was not making any excuses.
“We were very thin with injuries. We had six players playing with Leinster, two playing for the Irish Under-20s and we had four fitness tests before the game.
“The lads that went out fought like dogs and and they showed great character, integrity and there is nothing else you can ask for.”
Clontarf had a try in each half from flanker Eoin Cremen and hooker Aaron Dundon, and the visitors’ mauling ability certainly caused Lansdowne problems.
“I think that is our 14th try from a lineout maul this season. It is a weapon for us but we found it very hard to get over,” admitted Jackman.
“We stayed patient and got our rewards. The other try was just down to forward domination, patience, good technique, following the game-plan and it was nice to watch.”
Lansdowne’s resilience was broken with two tries down to the power of the Clontarf maul but Jackman believes their Dublin rivals could still claim a spot in Division 1A, whether as the second-placed side in Division 1B or via a promotion/relegation play-off (third versus bottom club in Division 1A).
“There is a chasing pack behind and I wouldn’t be surprised if they came up. If we can win the division we progress to the semi-finals and that was obviously our goal at the start of the year – to win the league – but we are huge underdogs.
“It is seven weeks away, a lot of things can change. We certainly have the players, Niall Treston, Daragh O’Shea, Noel Reid, Michael Keating and Evan Ryan, who won the league title with Cork Con last season.
“So, we have a very strong team and hopefully if we do get into the play-offs, we will do ourselves justice.”
Lansdowne have a welcome break now before they wrap up their Division 1B campaign against Bruff (away, March 26) and Buccaneers (home, April 2).
“The way the season is structured with five games on the trot (recently), that takes an awful lot out of clubs and amateur players who are working, or in college,” explained Clancy, whose side are two points behind second-placed Buccs.
“The players have a professional attitude, a professional approach. The intensity of playing five games on the trot – they are only human. We were very very thin coming into this game and I am sure Clontarf were in the same boat.
“The better team won on the day. We could have snuck it at the end, but we didn’t. We move on, and next up is Bruff.
“Buccaneers lost to Galwegians (today) so it is going to be very tight. We have a break of four weeks, thank God, and then we play Bruff away and then Buccaneers at home. And then it’s over.
“As I said, that is when we will tot up the numbers – on the second of April. If we are in the top two, great, top three great. We will take the opportunity if it comes our way.”
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